Step into the light

Nature photography is often underrated as a skill, and definitely not respected enough financially, yet it is of high value to many of us. The basic elements of it are roughly broken down into:

a)    Know your location – being able to predict what the surroundings will do/look like, therefore knowing what it’ll allow you to do.
b)   Know your subject – by knowing what your subject will and won’t tolerate, and how it will react to certain situations allows you to be much more creative.
c)    Know your photography – understand your equipment (its abilities and limitations) as well as technique (i.e. exposure, composition etc).

Once you have these under your belt, there is no reason why you can’t do some fantastic photography. There are many different angles you can experiment with – capturing motion, capturing behaviour, telling a story (photo journalism) etc.

There is something else, however, that I find often adds an extra wow-factor to images that is completely out of the photographer’s control: light.

Sunset over Putney Bridge in London after the sun has set

Sunset over Putney Bridge after the sun has set

Sunrise and sunset are great times to photograph landscapes. There is something about seeing a clean sunrise or sunset that makes everyone go ‘oooh’. But actually I love a bit of cloud with a sunrise or sunset. They can be great for scattering light rays, or catching the light at an unusual angle. Or personally, I love to shoot before the sun has come up or after it has gone down – the colours in the sky against a dark backdrop stand out really well.

Sunset over Saroma Lake in Hokkaido, Japan

Sunset over Saroma Lake in Hokkaido, Japan

The golden hour is the time just after the sun has risen or is about to set and is great not only for light but also for catching the animals out and about. The light is very soft, and has an orange glow about it that makes your image look ‘warmer’.  And for a stunning effect, one I still would like to be able to get, go out when the nights have been frosty, and a bright morning sun creates a hazy cast over the landscape.

Photo shot during sunlight golden hour of a golden eagle

If you can’t seem to get up in the mornings, or would rather shoot all day instead of taking a nap, stronger daylight can be used to create directional lighting : everyone loves a bit of backlighting to create some atmosphere or silhouettes, or use front lighting to highlight detail in your subject.

Deer on Furepe falls cliff

Deer on the cliffs of Furepe falls in Hokkaido, Japan

Silhouette of a vulture

Silhouette of a vulture

If you do end up getting an overcast day, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A cloudy day is perfect for macro photography, acting like a giant softbox, and creating a gentle light source that gives an even cast over your subject rather than harsh highlights, which is much easier for macro work!

Macro shots of some violets in Hokkaido

Macro shots of some violets in Hokkaido

So why don’t you have a go, and think about light as a creative tool for taking some more artistic shots.

2 thoughts on “Step into the light

  1. Hey Ester,

    Wij hadden gisteren weer onze jaarlijkse reunie met oude studievrienden.

    Ik sprak met Joep (de ex-dierentuin bioloog – hij is sinds vorig jaar met pensioen) over jou en jouw aspiraties.

    Hij zei dat velen mooie plaatjes willen (en kunnen) maken van dieren enz maar dat weinigen het geduld hebben om expressies bij dieren vast te leggen. Dat kost veel tijd en je moet ook geluk hebben.

    Een gat in de markt??

    Liefs Pap XXX

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